Officials of the Office of the President are said to be livid that a Namibian paramount chief who attended an event in honour of the late Bangwato regent, Tshekedi Khama, put President Ian Khama on the spot.
While he was Bangwato regent, Tshekedi offered refuge to a Herero community fleeing persecution in what (to Europeans) was then called German South West Africa.
On the day that Tshekedi’s descendants and fans gathered in the village he founded 63 years ago, it was only fitting that a Herero traditional leader be given a spot to express his gratitude for what Tshekedi did for his predecessors. Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro chose to do that and more. He implored Khama, who was recently appointed Chairman of the Southern African Development Community, to use the prestige of his office to get his people justice. Rukoro wants both SADC and the African Union to officially recognise the legitimacy of the Hereros’ campaign for reparations from Germany.
The Namibian chief also used his turn at the podium to sneak in lamentation about the Botswana government’s attitude towards Herero language and culture. Officiating at an event in Omauaneno last year, Khama promised that his government “would do everything possible” to develop Herero and Nama languages. Rukoro reminded Khama of this unfulfilled promise at the Pilikwe event.
Conveying the displeasure of their principal, OP officials are said to have remonstrated with the organisers, complaining bitterly about this unwelcome commentary. What seems certain from here on out is that a friendship that goes back decades may have been jeopardised to a point of erosion. It is highly unlikely that in future events that honour Tshekedi, Khama will share the same podium with Rukoro or any of his representatives.
Besides ruffling feathers, Rukoro’s speech also served to put Botswana’s foreign policy under the spotlight and expose its hypocrisy. While Botswana has criticised countries as far away as Sudan, Syria and North Korea, it would seem odd that it prefers to keep mum about atrocities that were committed against a nation with whom it shares a border.